Carrying on the Teachings

Yá’át’ééh, Shí éí Tó’aheedliinii nishłí, Persian éí báshíschíín. Kinyaa’áánii dashícheii dóó Persain dashshínálí. Lukachukai dę́ę́ íyisíí naashá, áádóó University of Kansas di ííníshta’. Shí éí Ashley Tso yinishyé.

My mother is of the Water-Flows-Together Clan and I am born for the Persian People. My maternal grandfather is Towering-House Clan and my paternal grandfather is Persian. My family is originally from Lukachukai, Arizona, but I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am a currently enrolled in the Higher Education Administration Educational Leadership & Policy Studies Master Program at the University of Utah. I represent the Diné Nation and the Persian people. My name is Ashley Tso.

I began my introduction the Diné way. A person’s introduction is not only about you and what you have achieved or what you have earned. It also tells a story about your family, about where you come from, and whom you are related to by clans and name. It is about your mother’s family, because the Diné are a matrilineal society. It is about your family’s origins; where they come from within our four sacred mountains. It is about your ancestors; who who you are related to. This is our way.

An introduction begins with knowing who you are, where you come from, and if you do not know, you take the time to find out. You surround yourself with the history and culture, the words, and the teachings of our elders. It is also about how you pray, when you pray, and who you pray to by learning about how you are linked to all your relations. It is not a single entity; it is Mother Earth, Father Sky, the four directions, and our ancestors. You pray to everything all around you. You are humble and strong in your words with no one single idea, but multiple ideas and you are thankful.

In this sense it means knowing “all your relations,” which is an ensemble of your clanship, your connectedness with your family (given or made), and your ability to bond with others. You connect on a happy or sour note with individuals of the same tribe, nation, or nationality. You build bridges linking yourself and your family to one another allowing communication and cooperation to flow.

However, an introduction is not a single idea of learning about whom you are and where you come from. It is about taking pride in your history and culture, and embracing and respecting your ancestors, your family, your relatives, and lastly, yourself. This is because without your ancestor’s perseverance your family would not be here, your relatives would be scarce, and you would not be able to strive and empower others and yourself.

Your heritage is a gift given to you by those who came before you. There is no being Native. You are not an act, a costume, a fashion statement, a fictional character, or extinct. You cannot be Native; it is a part of who you are. Embrace, empower, and educate yourself. Once an appreciation is achieved embrace, empower, and educate others because you are Native, you are Indigenous, and you are the First Nation.

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